The Babylonian Exile #8

Daniel’s revelation to Nebuchadnezzar of both the dream he dreamed and the meaning of it brought an astonishing reaction from the king. The monarch was so moved that he fell on his face and “worshiped Daniel and commanded that they should offer an oblation of sweet odors unto him.” To Daniel he said, “Of a truth your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of secrets seeing thou hast been able to reveal the secret” (Dan. 2:46-47). Great was that honor given Daniel: Nebuchadnezzar recognized Daniel was not God but he honored Daniel as the voice of him who is indeed the God of gods.

Five kingdoms were included in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: four human and one divine. The dream revealed human kingdoms which came in succession — a history of mankind for the next 800-900 years. The first of these four kingdoms of men was the Babylonian empire which ruled from 605 B.C. to 539 B.C. Following the kingdom of Babel was the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, which held sway from 539 B.C.-330 B.C. The kingdom of the Medes and Persians fell to the Grecian Empire in 330 B.C., which lasted (although in a divided form) until 63 B.C. when the Roman Empire began and lasted well into the fourth century of our present era. ,There are some who question the identity of the four kingdoms outlined above.

There should be no questions for there can be no doubt as to the identity of the first: Daniel was quite specific, saying to Nebuchadnezzar, “Thou art this head of gold” (Dan. 2:38). Then the Holy Spirit revealed that the kingdom which would succeed the Babylonian would be the Medo-Persian kingdom. Later in the book, Daniel prophesied this (Dan. 8:20). But Jeremiah had prophesied it even earlier (Jer. 51:11). Even earlier than Jeremiah, Isaiah had identified the nation to succeed Babylon as the Medes (13:17). The third kingdom, who would conquer the Medo-Persian kingdom, was identified by Daniel as the Grecian kingdom (Dan. 10:20). How could anyone question the fourth kingdom was Rome? It was during the Roman kingdom in which our Lord was born (Lk. 2:1-7) and during His ministry He told His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mk. 9:1). The Roman kingdom was in power throughout the whole lifetime of all the apostles surviving at least 200 more years after the death of the last apostle which necessarily means that Rome was the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream — all which constitute an amazing miracle, for that would mean that not only four major empires were identified 700 plus years before the existence of three of them, but that David identifies the core nature of each of  them.

In a vision which Daniel received many years after Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel saw “four great beasts which came up from the sea, diverse one from another” (Dan. 7:3). The first was like a lion — regal — which was Babylon. The second like a bear — slow — but terrible in hurt he inflicted, a fitting description of the Medes and Persians; the third was like a leopard, with four wings and four heads, picturing swiftness and a divided state: representing the swiftness of the victories of Alexander the Great, whose early death brought the division of his empire between his four generals; then finally a fourth, terrible and powerful, diverse beast with great iron teeth – Rome, to  a tee.

Then, most important of all, was the promise of a fifth kingdom, not of human but divine origin.  Daniel wrote “in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people: but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44).  The four, earthly kingdoms were represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream by the great image of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay, which the king had seen.  The fifth kingdom was pictured as a great mountain which filled he whole earth, which mountain grew out of the residue of the image which had been destroyed by a stone, cut out without hands of a mountain (Dan. 2:45), teaching it was not of human beginning but by the God of the universe, and that it would be a kingdom of universal proportions: from the remains of the four kingdoms which had been destroyed by the stone cut out, without hands, from the mountain.

The four kingdoms which grew to major proportions were destroyed.  The land they controlled still exists ruled by other powers, but the empires are gone.  And, as the prophet envisioned, the fifth kingdom which grew from the residue of the four empires to become a mountain filling the whole earth and which would never be destroyed, had its beginning on the day of Pentecost, in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2).  Some years after Pentecost Peter looked back to that day and called it “in the beginning” (Acts 11:15).  2,000 years later that kingdom is still here.  God’s kingdom is His church.  Jesus promised to Peter the keys of the kingdom (Mt. 16:19) which keys he used to open the gates to that kingdom on Pentecost (Acts 2:37f; 31, 37) and through which gates have poured untold millions for the past 2,000 years and which gates still remain open and will until Jesus comes again!

What marvelous prophecies come to us from the mouths of the prophets of the Babylonian exile!

Jim McDonald